If you’ve been with your current HVAC vendor for years (even if it was a happy marriage at first) your relationship can unravel to the point where it’s time to move on. When you’re waiting for a repair, are they MIA for hours with no phone call? Do they send untrained technicians who don’t understand your system? Are they negligent about doing preventative maintenance? Do they leave a mess behind?
If you’re experiencing lousy response times and sub-par service from your HVAC vendor, you may be putting off “breaking it off” because it’s such a daunting task to find someone better. How can you tell which of the thousands of HVAC contractors in the New York City area can be counted on to provide great service?
You just need to know what to ask. Here’s a guide to the top ten questions you should ask HVAC contractors. The answers will guide you to the experienced professionals who can be counted on to provide fast, reliable, high quality service for your HVAC system.
1. Do you have general liability insurance and workers compensation?
This is a deal breaker. Never hire a contractor without adequate insurance. General liability insurance protects your property if the contractor or technician causes any damage to your facility through their action or negligence. This is especially important if your employee or customer gets injured.
Worker’s compensation protects you in case a contractor’s employee is injured on your property; if the contractor doesn’t have it, you may be responsible for the medical bills.
2. Are your technicians certified?
Since New York does not require HVAC technicians to be licensed, you need to ask about other credentials to learn how much expertise a vendor’s technicians have. There are several industry-standard certifications that set the true professionals apart, including:
- EPA 608 Certification
- MSCA (Mechanical Service Contractors of America) STAR Certification
- NATE (North American Technical Excellence) Certification
- Excellence Certification
These certifications validate a technician’s knowledge with training requirements, rigorous certification exams, and hands-on field experience requirements, so you can be sure the vendor’s employees have the education and experience to do the job right.
3. Can you provide recent references?
Contractors with many satisfied customers will be happy to provide you with references from the past year, as well as long term customers. Beware if a vendor only gives you references from years ago that they have not actually worked with recently. You want to speak to customers who can attest to the contractor’s current work, but who can also tell you about the consistency of the service over time.
4. How will you solve my HVAC issues?
Here’s where the contractor should be asking you questions: about your building’s occupancy, hours of usage, what problems you currently experience, and the impact of system downtime on your business. The contractor should be able to explain the load analysis used to evaluate your system and make recommendations for improvement. If the contractor wants to sell you something without doing an evaluation of your needs, run, don’t walk in the opposite direction.
5. Do you file for permits if they are required for the job?
Always hire contractors who know the legal requirements and take care of any necessary permits. If they do, you can be sure that the work will be performed to code and done correctly. And you avoid the hassle of failed inspections and getting work corrected later, which can be costly.
6. Does the equipment have a warranty?
If a vendor will be installing new equipment, ask about warranties in advance, and especially about who would be performing any repairs that may be needed under the warranty. Many installers do not want to be bothered with repairs or service after the fact.
7. Do you guarantee your work?
Reputable companies should guarantee all installation, service and repair work for a period of one year.
8. What about inspections and maintenance?
Make sure the company you choose makes maintenance a priority. Regular maintenance prevents breakdowns that interrupt business, reduces energy consumption and can extend the life of your system by years. Avoid contractors who just want to sell and install expensive equipment but don’t want to maintain it later. An expert HVAC service company will recommend regular inspections and a service schedule that’s customized to the requirements of your system and your budget. You will get the best pricing and response times under a service contract.
9. Can you help me save money on energy bills?
A knowledgeable HVAC contractor should explain that there are two ways they can help reduce your energy costs. First, by recommending newer, more energy-efficient equipment and making sure your system is designed correctly the meet the needs of your business. Second, by performing regular preventative maintenance to keep your system in peak condition. Without regular cleaning and tune-ups, your system has to work harder and use more energy to keep your building comfortable.
10. What is your clean up policy?
This may seem like a small issue, but debris left around your equipment can cause it to lose efficiency. It’s also a safety issue; you don’t want your employees tripping over the mess left by an HVAC tech. The most professional contractors will guarantee to leave your premises free of debris and parts after a technician has been on site.
Breaking up can be hard to do, but you’ll be glad you did once you find a new vendor that can better meet your needs. Using this information as a guide, you’ll soon be in the hands of a more professional HVAC service provider that you can count on for years to come.
Interested in learning more about transitioning to a more qualified and reliable service provider for your HVAC system? Download our white paper Contract Confidence:Transitioning to a New HVAC Service Provider.